On January 8, 2018 my daughter and I climbed into our car and headed east. I was making the 1100 mile round trip to Philadelphia and back one last time to drop her off for her last semester of college at Penn. I was proud of myself because I could finally make the trip without turning on my GPS and most of the time I had a good idea of where I was at. What should’ve been a forgettable journey turned into an unforgettable 48 hours with valuable lessons learned.
We were leaving this time with an extra day to spare since my daughter wanted to be there a day early. I would’ve preferred to wait a day since we were following a storm but since we were not in a rush and could take our time I agreed to head out after the storm. We left at 2:30pm which meant if we drove straight through only stopping for gas and eating in the car we would get there around midnight barring any unforeseen complications. I’ve also learned that arriving late can be easier and cheaper since you can avoid the tolls without it costing you time in traffic.
I let my daughter start off driving for the first 3 hours till we reached the Pennsylvania border and then I took over. I was about half way down 80 when the roads began to get really icy and the trucks became obnoxious. If you’ve never driven up and down the hills in PA with a bunch of trucks then think of it as playing leap frog with semi’s, but every time you go to pass a string of them one jumps into your lane going about 20 miles slower than you. It then takes them sometimes 3 miles to pass before moving back to the right. Now when the roads are icy like they were this night I try to leave more space between me and the car in front of me and the trucks inevitably see it as an invitation to spontaneously change lanes. On a normal day this game is annoying at its worst but on an icy day after dark it can cause me a great deal of anxiety particularly if I’m on a time constraint.
While I didn’t have a time constraint for Philly, I did have one for reaching Harrisburg. There is a Costco there that is only 1 ½ miles off the highway and I knew it closed at 9pm. One thing I’ve learned in my travels is that stopping for gas at Costco is not only cheaper but safer. Why this matters is another story and perhaps I’ll make it a future blog.
We finally got off our exit from I80 and headed south down 144 to US 322 which goes past Bellefonte, and Lewistown before heading into Harrisburg. The part between I80 and Lewistown has always been in my opinion the most dangerous stretch of the journey, mostly because of the ridiculously steep hills and 2 lane roads with truck speeds of only 25mph.
As I made my way south the freezing rain stopped and traffic slowly disappeared because it was now past rush hour and most people were home with their families. I had my daughter look up how far out we were from Harrisburg to see if we were going to make it before they closed and it looked as if we would make it with 15 minutes to spare. We were now back on a 4 lane hwy with no traffic and no ice, so I could finally relax.
Then it happened……
The number 1 thing I dread the most when driving.
More than breaking down in the middle of no where.
More than being pulled over by a State Patrol officer.
More than having a car full of kids start puking as I drive down the road……
Yes I know a deer……
It happens all the time, in fact over 1.5 million times each year in the US.
But for me…..this was the 7th deer I’ve hit and I live in Ohio which is not even ranked in the top ten worst states for hitting a deer. Pennsylvania however is ranked # 3 which is where I was on this fateful night.
As I watch the video now from my dash cam the split second I had to react seems so much quicker than it had the night of the accident. My mind had quickly calculated the risk of swerving and even though my foot hit the brakes it did so after the point of impact. The second in time seemed more like ten in my mind with each stride of the deer moving in slow motion. I had closed my eyes in anticipation of the airbags being deployed, remembering all too well the sting of the airbags from previous encounters with these four legged creatures. My daughter however kept hers open and later told me how she thought she saw the head fly off of the deer.
The shock doesn’t get any easier and a quick evaluation of my car revealed that it was totaled. I knew I wouldn’t be fixing it or even driving it home. It’s funny how attached you can become to your car. I had only had this one 18 months but suddenly and unexpectedly was being forced to say goodbye hundreds of miles from home. The tears were starting to fall for any number of reasons. The old me would’ve fought them off to keep control and do what I needed to do but I’ve learned that for me anyhow it’s better to let them fall. If I do my mind will think clearer and I will keep my perspective on what really matters.
My daughter called 911 for help while I tried to figure out our exact location. The closest town on google maps was Mexico. I knew we were close to Mifflentown but didn’t remember ever seeing signs for a town called Mexico in all of my trips, but yet that is what showed up on my map. I checked to make sure my location was on and it was. While we waited for the police to show up I called my insurance agent and was reminded that I did not have rental coverage. I remembered why too. I owned 3 cars so if something happened I would simply get a ride home and drive a different one. I never anticipated having an accident 5 hours away from home. I don’t do a lot of traveling and statistics show that most accidents happen within 10 miles of home so it didn’t make sense to pay for rental coverage. But now it was 8pm and I was 5 hours from anyone I knew who could give me a ride anywhere.
The tow truck driver was willing to drop us off at the Mc Donald’s at the next exit and when I asked him if there was some place we could get a rental car his response was that we could call a taxi. A taxi from where? was all I could think and then how much was that going to cost? we were still an hour away from Harrisburg. I looked for a hotel thinking that maybe things would look better in the morning but there were no hotels and the lovely Mc Donald’s closed at Midnight. That meant that even if someone back home got in their car and drove out they wouldn’t make it before Mc Donald’s closed.
I was trying hard to stay calm as panic was welling up inside. I was reminding myself of all the other times God has provided for me and looked out for me. I didn’t know where my daughter and I were going to find shelter that night. I thought of Mary and Joseph on their journey so many years ago. God was going to have to do what He does best because there wasn’t anything I could do. While I was praying inside and quoting scriptures to myself my daughter was busying messaging on her phone and before long had a partial solution to our dilemma. An old roommate from a previous year at school was from Lancaster PA, she had a little sister who was willing to drive 1 1/2 hours to pick us up from Mc Donald’s and give us ride to her parents house in Lancaster.
I was so thankful for a ride anywhere and this ride was even in the direction that we needed to go. I was further humbled by their willingness to put us up for the night. I was so exhausted that I was willing to crash on a couch or even the floor at this point. My heart was raw with emotion unsure of how were going to finish our journey or what I was even going to do once I returned home.
Upon arriving at their home we were not given couch to crash on or even a spare room. What we graciously given was the master bedroom. I looked at the wonderfully large bathtub that I so badly wanted crawl into and my heart melted. As I looked around this home the walls within my heart were crumbling and I couldn’t even put into words why. I sank into a bed that night that was as comfortable as my own bed back home.
The next morning I woke up and wandered out to the kitchen to find a canister of piping hot coffee waiting for me. I sat down and began my hunt for a rental car. I discovered that rental car companies don’t really like to let you take their cars to another town. I could find one easily if I was going to return it to Lancaster but since I wanted to return it in Ohio they didn’t have any available. When I was finally able to locate a place that would allow me to take one to Ohio it was going to cost me $236 for 24 hours. That meant I had to finish the drive to Philadelphia unload my daughter and make the drive back to Bowling Green OH within 24 hours. I had no idea how I was going to make the journey but I was confident that God did.
My daughter and I gathered our belongings and prepared to leave. A short while later Freda the mother of my daughters friend, the woman who opened up her home to us, the woman who chose to sleep in her daughters bed and gave us her bed, the woman who graciously prepared me a canister of coffee that morning. Freda didn’t stop there, she then took us to the café that she manages and served us some wonderful breakfast before dropping us off at the rental car store.
Freda was light to us during those hours, she was the embodiment of Christ and exemplified what it is to be the hands and feet of Christ. She opened her home to practically strangers and didn’t give us her left overs or spares. She gave us her best, all that she had and all that was to give she shared openly. I’m not sure I’ve been given a more precious gift than that. I’ve had other people give for me but usually they have plenty to give or it’s and extra something that they don’t need.
This was different. God’s hands were in complete control the whole time and provided for me the best. Better than any insurance company could’ve ever provided for me. I thought of how often I’ve seen Christians give to give but is it really giving when there is no sacrifice? Is it tithe if its out of your left overs? God wants our first fruits the best that we have to offer not what we don’t need. I am still in awe of what this woman did. I am humbled by how she allowed God to use her to shine brightly a message I so desperately needed to see and hear. A message that said I am valuable, important, cherished, worthy and loved.
I just want to challenge you the next time you see a need that you don’t give out of your left overs but rather give sacrificially and just see if God does a miracle in the life of someone else.
Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce.